a real world point of view
|The Curse of the Black Spot|
|Main setting:||The Fancy, Earth, 1699|
A parallel universe, 1699
|Premiere broadcast:||7 May 2011|
|Premiere network:||BBC One|
|Format:||1x 45 minute episode|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|Day of the Moon||The Doctor's Wife|
|A Good Man Goes to War||The Girl Who Waited|
The Curse of the Black Spot was the third episode in the sixth series of Doctor Who. It featured the long forgotten character Henry Avery, mentioned in the First Doctor episode The Smugglers, and gave an explanation as to what happened to him and his crew.
The TARDIS is marooned onboard a 17th-century pirate ship whose crew is being attacked by a mysterious and beautiful sea creature. Becalmed and beset by cabin fever, the pirates have numerous superstitious explanations for the Siren’s appearance. The Doctor has other ideas, but as his theories are disproved and every plan of escape is thwarted, he must work to win the trust of the implacable Captain Avery and uncover the truth behind the pirates’ supernatural fears – and he must work quickly, for some of his friends have already fallen under the Siren’s spell.
On a becalmed ship called the Fancy, a man with a minor cut is brought to the captain, Henry Avery; Avery declares that he's a "dead man" after discovering a black spot on the man's palm. The crew gives him a sword and forces him outside as a woman can be heard singing on the deck. A few minutes later, the man can be heard screaming as the song cuts to a stop. The crew departs the cabin to investigate, with Avery remarking that the disappearance is the same as all the others. As a banging is heard below deck, a wooden grille is pushed open to reveal the Doctor, Amy, and Rory.
The trio is brought to Avery's cabin, where the Doctor reveals that they picked up the ship's distress calls; the crew, however, insists that they made no such calls. When the Doctor compares the time travellers to "sailors," they are held at gunpoint by Avery and accused of being stowaways; the captain, knowing there is too little water to sustain all of them until the wind picks up, orders the Doctor and Rory to walk the plank while commanding Amy to the scullery. She is shoved below deck, where she discovers trunks of pirate garb and weaponry. As the Doctor is prepared to jump into the water, Amy reappears, brandishing a sword, frightening the crew, who do not wish to be injured. One crew member advances on her to get the sword away from her, but she puts up a fight, accidentally cutting his hand; he explains that she has killed him, prompting her to call him a "baby" for overreacting. A second fight ensues and Amy drops the sword, accidentally cutting Rory as well. Black spots appear on both of the men's palms, prompting Rory to ask the Doctor what's happening. *(which actually only happened in the novel Peter Pan)
The woman's voice is heard yet again, charming Rory and the wounded pirate and turning them into babbling fools. A ghostly woman bubbles up from the becalmed water and slowly advances on the crew, extending her hand to Rory and the pirate; the pirate steps forward and is instantly vaporised upon touching her. Rory also approaches her, but Amy steps between them, threatening the woman -- who turns an angry red, hisses, and throws Amy across the deck. The crew hurries below deck, followed by the time travellers; Avery refers to the woman as a Siren, and says she has been taking every injured crew member, whether the wound is large or small. They all believe that the ship is cursed, which the Doctor responds to with some derision.
Avery does not believe that the TARDIS is truly the Doctor's "ship," and levels his pistol at him, demanding that he make it "sail"; the Doctor, however, feels that they're merely fighting over who's in charge. Another crewmember realises that a leech has bit him on the leg, and they all scramble to remove themselves from the still water as the black spot appears on the man's hand. All of a sudden, the Siren appears and takes the man, allowing the Doctor to deduce that she is using water as a portal; therefore, they must make for the driest room on the ship -- the armoury. Arriving there, they discover Toby, a young boy who is revealed to be Avery's son; the boy stowed away on his father's ship, wanting to meet the man his mother described as an "honourable Navy captain" before she died the previous year. Unfortunately, he is very ill, and soon reveals a black spot on the palm of his hand. Because he possesses no injuries, the Doctor realises that the Siren is coming for the sick as well as the wounded.
Avery and the Doctor go to the TARDIS, where Avery quickly adapts to the machine's extraterrestrial equipment by comparing them to the functions of his own ship. Meanwhile, the boatswain and Mulligan -- the only remaining crew members -- reveal their plan to leave the ship with Avery's treasure, thus informing Toby that his father is a pirate; still loyal, Toby grabs a sword and cuts the boatswain's hand, stranding him in the armoury with the others. Mulligan, however, leaves anyway. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor realises that the TARDIS cannot leave because it can't sense the plane it's supposed to be flying on; abruptly, it begins to dematerialise, and with no clue as to its destination, the Doctor and Avery are forced to flee.
On their way back to the armoury, the Doctor and Avery run into Mulligan, who has stolen all of Avery's treasure and is preparing to leave the ship. The two give chase, but Mulligan manages to lock himself in a small cabin room, where he burns his hand upon lighting a match; the Doctor and Avery listen as he is taken by the Siren. Entering the room, the Doctor and Avery realise that there is no water present; thus, the Siren doesn't only use water as a portal, but all reflective surfaces. Remembering that Avery gave Toby his medallion, they rush back to the armoury, where the Doctor blows air on the medallion to fog the surface. With no TARDIS, they realise they have no other option but to sit and wait for the seas to kick up again.
As everyone sleeps, Amy sees the woman with the eyepatch staring at her through a hatch in the side of the ship; however, the hatch disappears. She goes to Avery's cabin, where the Doctor stands staring out the window, and is prepared to tell him of the woman when he interrupts her, questioning whether or not she feels as though she is being watched. Suddenly, a storm breaks, and all head to the deck to lift the sail; in the chaos, a crown falls out of Avery's jacket, even though the Doctor had previously ordered Avery to rid the ship of all the treasure so that they might limit the Siren's means of reaching them. The Siren appears, taking Toby, but the Doctor is able to throw the crown overboard before she can go after Rory. Nevertheless, Rory is knocked overboard and begins to drown; though Amy prepares to jump in after him, the Doctor explains that Rory will die unless they let the Siren take him; he pulls the lid off a bucket of still water and orders the woman to go save him. The Doctor realises that their only means of reuniting with their loved ones is to prick their fingers and let the Siren take them as well. She appears, and they all touch her hand, instantly blacking out.
They wake on the floor of an invisible alien spaceship, which the Doctor quickly deduces is taking up the same space as the Fancy, lending credence to his previous belief that they were all being watched; every window on the spaceship is a portal that leads to the Fancy. Amy realises that the distress signal they answered was coming from the spaceship, not the Fancy. As they explore, they discover the skeletons of the ship's crew members, with the Doctor ascertaining that they all died years ago from an Earth disease.
Eventually, they discover the sick bay, where Avery's crew -- plus Rory, Toby, and the TARDIS -- are being kept, hooked up to life support machines. When Amy tries to unhook Rory, the Siren appears and puts him back to sleep. The Doctor realises that the Siren is not a demon, but a virtual doctor who has been caring for the injured crew; however, she has no means of treating them and can only put them on life support to save them. Amy again tries to help Rory, but the Siren won't let her near him; it is not until Amy proclaims that he is her husband that the Siren extends her hand, with a glowing yellow ring forming around it. The Doctor orders Amy to take her hand, thus signing the contract and accepting all responsibility for Rory's further well-being. She does so, but they quickly realise that Rory cannot be taken off life support; in doing so, he will drown.
Rory is sure that Amy can save him and instructs her on how to perform CPR. Meanwhile, the Doctor reveals to Avery that Toby has typhoid fever, and if he were to be removed from the ship, he would only have a few months left to live. Remembering that the alien spaceship needs a captain, Avery volunteers for the position so that he may continue to look after his son. Bidding Avery goodbye, the Doctor and Amy bring a choking Rory back to the TARDIS, where Amy begins to perform CPR. Though it appears futile at first, Rory eventually recovers and lovingly embraces his wife.
The alien spaceship soars off into space, with Avery in the captain's seat and Toby and his crew at his side.
In the TARDIS, Amy and Rory say good night to the Doctor, who responds by referring to Amy as "Amelia." Amy notes that he only does this when he's worried about her; the Doctor retorts that he always worries about her, leading Amy to remember his impending death and admit that the feeling is mutual. As they depart the console room, Rory reminds her that she cannot tell the Doctor about what happens at the lakeside in the future. The Doctor scans Amy for pregnancy again, with the readings still flickering between positive and negative.
- The Doctor - Matt Smith
- Amy Pond - Karen Gillan
- Rory Williams - Arthur Darvill
- Henry Avery - Hugh Bonneville
- Boatswain - Lee Ross
- The Siren - Lily Cole
- Mulligan - Michael Begley
- Eye Patch Lady - Frances Barber
- Toby Avery - Oscar Lloyd
- DeFlorres - Tony Lucken
- Dancer - Chris Jarman
- McGrath - Carl McCrystal
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- Henry Avery -- also written as Henry Every -- was a real-life pirate and did indeed vanish after 1696, shortly after robbing the Mughal Empire: one of the largest pirate raids in history.
- The Fancy was a ship used by Avery, though in real life it had been scuttled in the Bahamas in 1696.
Cultural references from the real world Edit
- The Siren in this episode is based on Greek mythology.
- The Black Spot is an allusion to the Black Spot in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
- The title of the story, as well as several mentions of a compass, may be a nod to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and its sequels. Amy fights off numerous pirates like Elizabeth Swann, and the Black Spot appears on the palm of the victim's hand as it did for Jack Sparrow.
- The Doctor wipes his hand covered with alien bogies on Amy's pirate attire. In the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Man's Chest, Jack Sparrow wipes his hand covered with Davy Jones' slime on Gibbs' attire.
- Having an automated programme running the sickbay is similar to Emergency Medical Hologram from Star Trek: Voyager, who is also known only as the Doctor.
- Walking the plank is a staple of modern pirate lore, but the practice itself was actually quite rare. Some believe it to be entirely apocryphal, but there are historical instances of it.
- The Doctor again scans Amy using the TARDIS console regarding her pregnancy or non-pregnancy.
- Avery used the North Star to navigate his ship.
- The Doctor has said on numerous occasions that the sonic screwdriver does not do wood, and yet he uses it to open wooden doors and barrels multiple times.
- Avery compares the TARDIS' atom accelerator to the wheel on his vessel, the Fancy.
Story notes Edit
- This episode was supposed to air in the autumn half of the series, but was swapped around, along with TV: The Doctor's Wife being fourth instead of third and Mark Gatiss' episode being ninth instead of fourth. This was because Steven Moffat felt Gatiss' episode was too dark.
- This episode's original title was Siren and was the ninth episode of series six. In the first draft, the story was set on dry land (Cornwall) in case the show couldn't get a boat. (REF: The Brilliant Book 2012)
- Writer Steve Thompson was unaware of Avery's mention in The Smugglers. He'd simply looked through his sons' book about pirates and picked Avery because of his mysterious disappearance. (REF: The Brilliant Book 2012)
- The DVD commentary for the later episode TV: A Good Man Goes to War indicates that the decision to reorder the episodes was made before production ended on Black Spot, as according to the commentary the brief sequence featuring Avery and Toby that appears in the mid-season finale was shot during production of this episode.
- A prequel for this story was released online. 
- Lily Cole is credited as 'The Siren' on-screen, and as 'Sea Siren' in Radio Times.
- This episode is notable both in that none of the guest cast die and there is no villain of the piece.
- As with this story, Earth-born diseases were the bane of the aliens in The War of the Worlds.
- This story bears some resemblance to TV: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances. In both stories, an automated medical entity is initially perceived as a threat due to its lack of familiarity with human physiology. In addition, in both stories all the characters survive.
- Hugh Bonneville (Captain Avery) previously played Sir Sidney Herbert and Tsar Nicholas I of Russia in AUDIO: The Angel of Scutari.
- As is routine for post-2005 Doctor Who, a "NEXT TIME" trailer for the next episode is shown at the end of the episode.
- 7.85 million (35.5% market share)
Filming locations Edit
Production errors Edit
- Although Boatswain was marked, he is never seen after Mulligan leaves the hold. In fact after Mulligan leaves, he is shown blockading the door again, but is not seen in there when the Doctor and Captain Avery come back.
- At the beginning of this story Amy has manicured her fingernails in a mauve colour. When she, the Doctor and Avery are about to be taken by the Siren, her nail varnish appears chipped. And then when the three arrive on the alien ship, her nails are completely manicured again.
- Like many television shows and films, this episode shows a very unrealistic depiction of CPR. The process of CPR is not intended to revive a victim. The purpose of CPR is to keep a minimum amount of oxygen flowing to the brain to prevent brain damage until professionals arrive to treat the victim. However, we know in this case that Rory's respiratory (and possibly cardiac) arrest did not have an underlying cause, and the best candidates for spontaneous return of pulse and respirations from CPR/rescue breathing are undoubtedly hypothermic near-drowning victims, as Rory is in this instance. The error is in Amy's execution. She did not check for pulse (chest compressions may not have been needed for a drowning victim), she did not seal his nose or check chest rise while rescue breathing, and did not know to provide a recommended ratio of breaths to chest compressions.
- When the Doctor presses the bell the scene is taken from TV: The Time of Angels as you can tell by his jacket sleeve.
- When the Doctor takes the hat from the disappeared pirate in the belly of the ship he puts it on, the camera cuts away, when the camera cuts back he's putting it on again, and then he takes it off, the camera flashes outside the hold and the Doctor is once again taking off the hat.
- When the Doctor discovers the dead "captain" of the "ghost ship" he scans the body and says that the cause of death was "human bacteria." He then elaborates, explaining that it was "A virus, from our planet. Airborne, travelling through the portal." Viruses and bacteria are not the same thing.
- When Amy is swinging on the rope you can see the clips of her harness clipped to the rope.
- When the captain's son is lying in the sick bay, his eyes are seen moving although he is supposed to be in stasis.
- Amy references the Doctor's death that she, Rory and River witnessed in TV: The Impossible Astronaut
- The Eye Patch Lady reappears for the second time to Amy. She first appeared to Amy in TV: Day of the Moon.
- The marking of the hand is akin to the green mark individuals experienced before mutating into a Primord. (TV: Inferno)
- Prior to this occasion, the TARDIS had landed in the hold of another sailing vessel: the Shadow. (TV: Enlightenment)
- A Captain Avery was previously mentioned in TV: The Smugglers.
- The TARDIS again seems confused as to whether Amy Pond is pregnant or not. (TV: Day of the Moon)
- The Doctor was previously forced to walk the plank in TV: The Pirate Planet.
- The idea that two objects can inhabit the same location, but not have direct travel between them happened during the Fourth Doctor's quest for the Key to Time, where a judicial space ship containing Cessair of Diplos ran aground on top of the Nine Travellers in Cornwall. The Stones were in our space but the ship was located in hyperspace, with travel being available via use of the Great Seal of Diplos or a machine made by the Doctor and K9. (TV: The Stones of Blood)
Home video releases Edit
- The Curse of the Black Spot at The Locations Guide
- Detailed synopsis of The Curse of the Black Spot at the Doctor Who Reference Guide